Sometimes a band’s true greatness can’t be heard in the studio but rather in the flesh, though not necessarily during a concert with thousands of loud people surrounding you drunkenly requesting “Freebird”. Sometimes, a live set in a small intimate setting with only a few instruments brings out the best in a band. You can actually argue that the best bands played their best music during their more intimate performances (think Nirvana and MTV Unplugged in New York).
In the case of The Go-Betweens, one of Australia’s most beloved indie-pop bands of the 80s, their finest hour (in my opinion) isn’t in any of their studio albums but rather during two live sets at Santa Monica’s KCRW-FM radio station in 1987 and 88 which make up Live On Snap With Deirdre O’Donoghue.
Where as The Go-Betweens’s albums fell victim to the horrible production of the 80s, Live On Snap showcases the band’s excellent songwriting which, at its best, is some of the most understated and mature songwriting in all of indie pop – think if The Shins appealed to more people than just 20somethings who love Garden State.
Take “Cattle And Cane” for example. It’s perhaps the band’s most acclaimed song (in 2001 the Australian Performing Right Association selected it as one of the top 30 Australian songs of all time), yet there’s something off about the studio mix for me.
But, on this record, their live acoustic take of “Cattle And Cane” might be my favorite thing the band has ever done. There is no awkward drum pattern nor timid bass line to distract you – it’s just guitars and vocals.
Most of the album is full of acoustic takes with a few electric versions, and the little radio bits with Deirdre O’Donoghue are also enjoyable. But if nothing else, this album will introduce you to one of Australia’s great bands.